The wedding quartet at St. Anne’s Catholic Church, Youngstown, Ohio, circa 1939, clockwise from left: my father, Chester; my mother, Elizabeth Jean Joyce; my aunt, Jane Palcewski Hubler, and my uncle, Alex Palcewski.
Rummaging around in bureau drawers at the Superior Street house I found, under some old glass picture frames without pictures in them, a three-by-five inch manila envelope with the logo of the Youngstown Sheet and Tube, and the name Alex Palcewski written in black ink on it, along with his employee number, and a date. Inside was money. Six new twenty dollar bills.
I looked again at the envelope. The date was nine or ten months earlier, almost a year, which meant Alex had squirreled this money away in the drawer when he was drunk, and when he woke up the next day didn’t remember what he’d done. And now what should I do? Give it to him? Would he thank me, or raise hell because I was snooping around?
I briefly considered keeping it, but realized that a kid my age passing crisp new twenty dollar bills would attract attention, and then I’d get a whipping from my father.
After a while I got a wicked idea. I called my Aunt Jane and told her that I’d found a lot of money, Alex’s, and then I asked her, “What should I do?” I heard the excitement in her voice. “Bring it here, Johnny. Bring it here. Alex will just spend that money on booze and….” She paused. “Just bring it here, okay?”
I walked up Superior Street to Delaware Avenue, and then left on Belmont to her house, and turned the envelope over. With slightly trembling fingers she counted out those brand new twenties. She beamed and told me I was a really good little boy who had done exactly the right thing, because things were getting tight, and so on, and she could put the money to good use. As a reward she baked a tray of date bars, cut into 16 two inch by two inch squares. I absolutely loved them! Sweet gooey dates covered top and bottom with a delicious crumbly crunchy crust.
I did the math. Each square that I greedily consumed had cost Alex $8.75. That was big money back in the mid 1950s.